India—A Fable by Raja Rao
In India—A Fable by Raja Rao we have the theme of colonialism, potential, control, change and independence. Taken from his Collected Stories collection the story is narrated in the first person by a man called Raja (assumed to be the author) and after reading the story the reader realises that Rao may be exploring the theme of colonization. Throughout the story the narrator gives life to India. He talks of the forests, the rivers, the goddesses and the elephants. All symbols of India that may have been forgotten when India was under British rule. It is as though Rao is suggesting that India is a living and breathing country and can be once it no longer is under British rule. It is also interesting that the narrator is able to control Pierrot or at least amaze him or occupy his mind. The fact that Pierrot is French might also be important as Rao could be highlighting the differences between India and Western society. Pierrot though only a child knows very little if anything about India. Who as mentioned is amazed by the country and recognises it as being better than Arabia. At least in his imagination.
This could be important as Rao could be highlighting the potential that India has after British rule. Also the fact that Pierrot moves on from Arabia to India could mirror Britain’s leaving of India. No longer is Britain the country that it was or would ever be again after WWII and the decolonization of India and the decline in the geopolitical role of Britain would only be a matter of time. The narrator also seems to be in touch with the spiritual side of life. If anything he is connected to not only India but to nature itself. This could be significant as Rao could be suggesting that the body of India has not changed. However it is the mind set of those who live there that needs to change. The fact that the story is not set in India could also be significant as Rao may be attempting to highlight that the narrator is not under the rule of the British yet longs for a post-colonial India. An India that in Pierrot’s eyes and possibly the narrator’s eyes is the best of places to be.
Women also play an important role in the story. A role that may or may not be befitting to them. The narrator considers the Sorbonard girls to be narrow in their vision while Queen Anne of Austria is portrayed as being an unhappy wife. If anything Rao may be symbolically suggesting that Western women are not the equal of Indian women. Who are happy and have the ability to look forward. They will not be defeated (nor will the Indian men) and as such the narrator is comfortable to praise, without saying it, Indian women. The buttons on the narrator’s coat may also have some symbolic importance. Though they may not be gold. They are more real than Rudolfe’s horse of gold. Rao managing to slight Western society by a very effective means. The horse is of course that of the colonizer. The fact that Pierrot’s father is away in Morocco might suggest that he too is a colonizer working for the military in Morocco. It is also noticeable that throughout the story there is a clear attempt by Raja to surround the narrator with those who are from Western society. In many ways mirroring how life may be for those who live in India. Surrounded and controlled by Western influences. However it is noticeable that the narrator never forgets India or the positives that India has to offer. It might be lost on Pierrot but it is not lost on the reader.
The end of the story is also interesting as Pierrot returns and remembers the narrator. He also remembers the narrator’s story and has promoted himself to the role of a maharaja. He has forgotten about Arabia as the narrator might hope that others may forget about India or at least allow India to be in control of their own destiny. It is also interesting that at no point in the story does the narrator, apart from language, allow for Western society to influence him. He is independent of the influences that might have come from India being controlled by British rule. This in itself is important as it suggests that the narrator is proud to be Indian and does not necessarily appreciate the fact that India has been colonized by Britain. Not only is the narrator a supporter of an independent India but he also has changed Pierrot’s opinion on India. Something that is clear to the reader by way of the fact that Pierrot is now playing the role of a maharaja.